|Rabbi Noah Weinberg - Founder of Aish HaTorah|
Saturday, March 04, 2000
Rabbi Noah Weinberg - About Aish HaTorah
Rabbi Noah Weinberg sailed from New York in 1953 with little more than a suitcase full of dreams; one man determined to turn world Jewry away from assimilation and back to Jewish pride. In 1974, he founded Aish HaTorah in the Old City of Jerusalem with a handful of students. Together, they grappled with the basic questions of Jewish identity: How is Judaism relevant to my life? Who is G-d? Why should I marry a Jew?
The formula worked, and today, Aish HaTorah is the premier resource for Jews with a thirst for knowledge and a longing for intelligent answers. Over 120 cities worldwide host Aish HaTorah programs, with full-time outreach centers everywhere from Toronto to Moscow to Australia.
Whether through our flagship Discovery seminar, or the popular Jerusalem Fellowships college program, Aish HaTorah's success is due largely to its unique approach: it provides an environment where questions, curiosities and misconceptions about Judaism are resolved.
Aish HaTorah students are young men and women who have pursued successful careers in medicine, business, law, education and the arts - and are now discovering their connection to the Jewish people. From all over the world and from all backgrounds - Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform, we have come together for a common cause: to reach out to the next generation and chart a brighter future for our people.
In recognition of these outstanding efforts, the Israeli government awarded Aish HaTorah - for the price of one shekel - the last remaining property directly facing the Western Wall. In 1995, Aish HaTorah's World Center (the Dan Family Building) opened, featuring the world's only glass Holy Ark. Today a second building, the multi-million dollar Aish HaTorah Outreach Center is currently under construction.
The name Aish HaTorah, literally "Fire of Torah," was inspired by the story of Rebbe Akiva, a 40-year-old shepherd who could not even read the Aleph-Bet. One day, he came across a stone that had been holed out by a constant drip of water. He concluded: If something as soft as water could carve a hole in solid rock, then how much more so can Torah - which is fire-- make an indelible impression on my heart. Rebbe Akiva committed himself to study Torah, and went on to become the greatest sage of his generation, with 24,000 students learning under him at one time.
Rabbi Weinberg believes each Jew could achieve similar results, if given the chance. He says: "If 20,000 Jewish kids were being killed each year, you'd be jolted into action and launch a movement to save them. Today, we're losing 20,000 Jewish kids each year through assimilation."
Aish HaTorah has a clear plan: Tie every Jew to a pride in his heritage, to a confidence in our future, and to an appreciation of how precious his involvement with the Jewish people can be for himself, his children, grandchildren, and all humanity. Says Rabbi Weinberg: "By working together, with the help of the Almighty, we will succeed."
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"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." –– Margaret Mead